Senate Democrats Worry About RFK Jr. Spoiler Potential For Biden

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 15, 2024

Senators from both parties, but primarily Democrats, have become recently vocal with concerns that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will act as a spoiler for the presidential candidate of their party.

Democrats are worried that in the projected tight race between Trump and Biden in November, RFK Jr.’s impact will be a wild card. They accuse him of being used by Trump to put Biden at a disadvantage.

Helping Trump

Democrat Senator from Hawaii Mazie Hirono is one of Biden’s most outspoken defenders in the legislature. Hirono is troubled by the prospect of JFK Jr.’s candidacy since he is related to former President Kennedy and carries his legendary name recognition.

Donald Trump speaking in front of a podium.

Source: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

“I think he’s basically helping Trump,” Hirono said. “I think he’s being used.”

Last Name Impact

Michigan Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow said that she believes Kennedy’s “last name would have the potential of hurting Biden.”

RFK Jr. Speaks during a campaign event.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

According to FiveThirtyEight, a site that averages popular polls, Kennedy has a positive favorability rating, with more Americans liking him than disliking him. Both Trump and Biden have negative favorability ratings, meaning more Americans view than unfavorably than favorably.

Republican Worries

Republican Senators have also expressed concern that Kennedy could take votes away from Trump. However, Republicans seem to be okay with it, thinking that ultimately RFK Jr. will take more away from Biden.

Independent presidential candidate RFK Jr speaks in 2023.

Source: Tom Williams/Wikimedia

“He may take votes from Trump, he may take votes from Biden. All in, I think he would take more votes from Biden,” said Republican Senator from North Dakota John Hoeven.

Democrats More Worried

Hoeven was confident that Democrats have more to be threatened by with Kennedy than Trump does.

Biden speaks at the State of the Union address in 2024.

Source: Joe Biden/Facebook

“Trump is putting out there very clearly now: Don’t be confused folks, this guy is liberal,” Hoeven said. “My general sense is that the Democrats are more worried about Kennedy than in general Republicans are.”

Kennedy’s Comments on Biden

Recently, JFK Jr. has made comments calling Biden a greater threat to democracy than Trump. Kennedy is running as an independent, and during an interview with CNN, he accused Biden of abusing his authority to censor political speech.

A photo of Robert F. Kennedy seen in a grey suit with a blue tie in 2017.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

“I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history, that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech … to censor his opponent,” Kennedy said.


Kennedy Censored

Kennedy, who began his run for president this cycle as a Democrat candidate, accused Biden of trying to censor his candidacy. He referenced an incident where allegedly a white house staffer asked an employee at Twitter to take down one of his tweets.

Joe Biden sitting at a desk wearing a suit and face mask. He is holding a document and signing it.

The White House/Wikimedia Commons

“I can say that because I just won a case in the federal court of appeals and now before that Supreme Court that shows that he started censoring,” said Kennedy. It’s unclear from his comments which case he was referring to.


Confirmation as a Spoiler

Some in Democrat circles took these comments to be confirmation that RFK Jr. is a spoiler intent on helping Trump.

A person slides an envelope into a ballot box.

Source: Element 5/Unsplash

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. laid to rest tonight any doubts that he’s a spoiler candidate by pushing his MAGA talking points in prime time,” said DNC senior advisor Mary Beth Cahill. “With a straight face Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that Joe Biden is a bigger threat to democracy than Donald Trump because he was barred from pushing conspiracy theories online.”


Trump Helping Kennedy

While Trump has made comments decrying RFK Jr. as a leftist, his campaign has been propping up his candidacy as a way to threaten Biden. In a recent statement to The Hill, the Trump campaign defended their support for getting Kennedy on the ballot in several states.

Former President Donald Trump stands at a podium with a confident smile, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie. In the background, out-of-focus figures hold signs, with one clearly displaying 'TRUMP'

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“While Joe Biden and his allies claim to defend democracy, they are using financial and legal resources to prevent candidates’ access to the ballot,” said Brian Hughes, a Trump campaign adviser.


Kennedy Campaign on the Spoiler Question

Stefanie Spear, Kennedy’s campaign spokesman denied allegations that his campaign is explicitly helping one side or the other, saying Trump is worried about RFK Jr.’s candidacy too.

Three American flags waving in the wind, mounted on tall flagpoles against a clear blue sky with a few scattered clouds

Source: Kevin Lanceplaine/Unsplash

“What Trump is really worried about is that Kennedy will split the anti-establishment vote with him and throw the election to the Democrats,” Spear said.


Caught in the Middle

Spear remarked in a statement that Kennedy had been attacked from both sides, each intending to paint him as radical in their own way.

The logos of Republicans and Democrats against a black background.

Source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

“RFK Jr. is a serious threat to Donald Trump, who therefore paints him as a leftist. For the same reason, Democrats paint him as a right-winger or secret MAGA sympathizer,” Spear said. “In reality he is neither. He is a genuine independent who is attracting interest from disaffected Trump donors as well as disaffected Biden donors.”


Comparisons to Ross Perot

Some political analysts are making comparisons of Kennedy to Ross Perot. Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election, which some think helped Clinton defeat incumbent George H.W. Bush.

Ross Perot at a press conference in 1992.

Source: Marueen Keating/Wikimedia

Kennedy is hoping to get on the ballot in all 50 states, with a Super PAC supporting him saying they already have enough signatures to get on the ballot in Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Michigan. Recent surveys suggest Kennedy is polling at around 10% nationwide, making him the highest-polling third-party candidate since Perot.